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Taken from The Winchester Star (July 06, 2018)

Music preview: Singer Michael Franti celebrates our similarities

by The Winchester Star

Port City Daily photo / Anthony Thoen

Just when it seems like positivity and optimism are threatened with extinction, here comes Michael Franti and his "Stay Human Tour," scheduled to perform throughout New England over the next few weeks, and as determined as ever to bring us all together.

Franti and his soul rock band will be touching down at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis on July 13; playing the Green River Music Festival in Greenfield on July 14; hitting the Hampton Beach (New Hampshire) Casino on July 17; swinging down to play Bold Point Park in Providence on July 18; and then headlining the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset on July 22.

"Well, we started the tour at Red Rocks, Colorado a week ago and we're on the road through the summer," said Franti from a midwest tour stop last week. "The theme of this 'Stay Human Tour' is simply the question, 'How is it that we define what it is to be human?' And then, 'How do we hold onto that humanity?'"

Franti and his music, in all his various groups and settings, have always fostered the concept of brotherhood and the things that connect people, whether it's shared musical tastes or ideas as simple as joining together to aid storm victims. The recent loss of a someone Franti viewed as a kindred soul has found Franti re-dedicating himself to his task.

"People today are feeling worried about our world, for many reasons," said Franti. "I think a kind of wake up for me was the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, who'd been sort of a hero of mine. I had great admiration for him and his show. Food is something we take for granted in this country, but it is a universal thing we all share an interest in. Anthony showed that you could sit in a place with a complete stranger, a foreigner, and just sit, eat, maybe have a beer, and it would not matter if you were eating tofu, or batwings with hot sauce, you would connect with that person. It showed, in a very real way, that we are all the same. We all want the same basic things in life to be happy; our health, jobs, and a place to live. Anthony Bourdain was magic is the way he showed that."

Franti, whose 'Stay Human 2" album is due out later this summer, has always enjoyed blending seemingly disparate musical styles into infectious and joyous music, much of it irresistible for the dance floor. He's recently directed a documentary, "Stay Human," which follows his activities on and offstage over the past year or so, including the left knee surgery he had last October.

"The film is a way to show the shared community we have, despite all the differences we have," said Franti, 52. "It's a look at some of the unique cultures and individuals we have, and how we can work together."

"There are so many things we overlook, when we wake up and read the news every day," Franti noted. "There are things going on that are crazy things, like the separation of families at the border. As an American I am proud to be part of this country. But, separating kids from asylum seekers, who come to this country filled with hope, as so many of our own ancestors did? It's unconscionable and it breaks my heart that we're dealing with this in 2018. We've got to find a way to reach out to our neighbors, and people new to our communities, and embrace them."

Yet with all of his passion for the downtrodden, Franti harbors no ill will for those who have opposing views.

"It's a fine line, but we have to come together," he said. "There's no one you couldn't love if you heard their story. And the second thing to always remember is that we all have light and dark in us. Probably 10 percent in all of us is prejudiced and filled with hate, and if you fan those flames you increase that percentage. But if we fan the flames of goodness, we can reduce that other side. All that negativity -- I'm always going to be opposing that and trying to fan the flames of optimism. We should all want everyone to be the best that they can be."

"I've been writing that song, putting out that message, as long as I've been performing," Franti concluded. "It's what I believe America is all about. Even with all our warts, like racism, sexism, and so on, I believe we are getting better all the time - every day."

The release of the forthcoming CD was pushed back, simply because Franti was so involved with his documentary. The film has haunting scenes of typhoon damage in the Philippines, and Franti playing his guitar to help sooth storm victims and their children.

"It was not exactly a setback, but a case where I was so inspired by making the film the past couple of years," Franti said of the album's delay. "And it's a case of wanting to make the album a continuation of the film - how we celebrate life, dancing and singing, and falling in love. In the film you see how the youth are so open and hopeful, despite all that storm debris. I think it shows how none of us are perfect, and music is just one way we have got to solve these moments of pain."

Franti has his own Pacific getaway, in Soulshine Bali, which sounds like a wonderful escape.

"About 10 years ago, I went on vacation in Bali and loved it," Franti explained. "I bought some land there and decided to build myself a little house. But I can't be there that often, so we turned the house into a little boutique hotel, and the motto is 'yoga, soul and rock 'n' roll.' People can come there and do yoga in the mornings, walk in the rice fields, and then dance at night. I've always loved hospitality, and so creating a hotel where people can come to have a transformative experience is something I really love. It's the sort of thing Anthony Bourdain's show tried to portray. We can only be there a couple months a year, usually April and May. But we now host 45 week-long yoga retreats there, and when we can, my wife and I lead them ourselves."

Franti has played all sorts of venues all over the globe, but he admits his first few times on the revolving stages at the Cape Cod Melody Tent and Cohasset's Music Circus were daunting.

"I really wasn't sure how it was going to work out when we first did those places," Franti laughed. "Th thing about those rotating theaters is that I close my eyes while I'm singing, and so when I did that, every time I opened my eyes there was a new crowd in front of me. But as a young kid, I was like everyone else - we'd buy the cheapest seats and sneak down front - and I always remember there'd be that moment when the singer seems to point right to you and makes that connection. I'd go 'Holy (bleep), he's looking right at me!' Those are the moments in music you can never forget, and I always want to give people that feeling. So I really have come to love those rotating stages, because it does give so many fans that chance to have a real moment of connection with us. We really care about our fans, and are grateful they come out to our shows, and so we're always trying to make that special connection."


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